Nov. 4, 2009
PARK RIDGE, ILL. - Minnesota junior Hassan Mead and Penn State senior Bridget Franek have been named men's and women's Big Ten Cross Country Athletes of the Year, conference officials announced today. Wisconsin's Maverick Darling and Penn State's Nicole Lord earned the nod as Freshmen of the Year; while Badger coach Mick Byrne and Beth Alford-Sullivan of Penn State take home Coach of the Year honors.
Mead garners his third postseason award in as many years after earning Freshman of the Year laurels in 2007 and his first Athlete of the Year laurel last season. The reigning Big Ten individual champion collected his second conference crown at this year's event, completing the 5.2 mile course a full five seconds ahead of the field with a winning time of 25:00.2, as the Gophers took home third-place team hardware. The Minneapolis native becomes the first Gopher to repeat as Big Ten Athlete of the Year in program history and only the second to be recognized with the award.
Franek paced Penn State to its first Big Ten team title last weekend on the strength of a first-place finish. The Nittany Lion senior turned in the second fastest six-kilometer time ever recorded by an individual titlist in the history of the event, breaking the tape at 20:03 to capture the individual crown. The Hiram, Ohio, native becomes just the second Big Ten Athlete of the Year in Penn State cross country lore, and the first since current Michigan State assistant coach Kim McGreevy accomplished the feat in 1996.
Wisconsin's Maverick Darling raced his way to a top-five finish in his inaugural conference championship to propel the perennial power to its 11th-consecutive team title. His 5.2 mile-time of 25:16.4 was second-best for Wisconsin as the Badgers placed five of their runners among the top eight finishers. With the selection, Wisconsin collects its third Freshman of the Year laurel in the last five seasons, and its seventh overall.
Running second for the Penn State contingent was newcomer Nicole Lord, who finished ninth overall in 20:52 to best all freshman competitors in the field. For her efforts, Lord earned second-team All-Big Ten accolades at the conclusion of Sunday's event. She becomes only the second Nittany Lion to garner Freshman of the Year laurels and the first to return the award to State College in nearly two decades (Colleen Glyde, 1992).
Wisconsin collects its ninth-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year accolade as Byrne achieves his second conference team title after replacing eight-time Coach of the Year winner Jerry Schumacher last season. The Badgers extended their own conference record for consecutive championships, racking up 26 team points in Sunday's victory to improve Wisconsin's overall tally to 43 Big Ten titles. The Badgers currently sit at No. 10 in the latest USTFCCCA poll to lead all Big Ten squads.
Penn State completes its first-ever sweep of the yearly Big Ten postseason accolades as 2009 Coach of the Year Beth Alford-Sullivan becomes the first Nittany Lion head general to earn the award in program history. The Nittany Lions captured their first team championship since its inception in 1981 in front of a home crowd at their own Blue and White Golf Courses over the weekend. Penn State currently leads all conference squads in the national polls, rating No. 11 in the nation, as they prepare for regional action.
The conference office also announced today honorees from each of the 21 cross country squads for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.
Honorees for men's and women's cross country are Illinois' Colin Mickow and Chantelle Groenewoud; Indiana's Zach Mayhew and Sarah Pease; Iowa's Brendan Camplin and Brooke Eilers; Michigan's Brendon Blacklaws and Rachel Severin; Michigan State's Pat Grosskopf and Rebekah Smeltzer; Minnesota's Matt Barrett and Heather Dorniden; Northwestern's Paulina Garcia; Ohio State's Taylor Candella and Katie Williams; Penn State's Vince McNally and Claire Berryman; Purdue's Caden Shields and Kristen Phillips and Wisconsin's Elliot Krause and Megan Beers.
These 21 student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the academic year.
First-team and second-team All-Big Ten honors were awarded at the Championships to the first seven and second seven finishers, respectively, for both men and women.